Losing a loved one is a very difficult part of life. The next steps can feel overwhelming when dealing with grief and end of life care. Here is a basic checklist to make the necessary steps clear so that the practicalities are clear, and the deceased can be honored.

Step 1: Obtain legal pronouncement of death

Whether the death is expected or unexpected, make sure to contact someone who can help you obtain legal pronouncement of death.

In the case of an expected death, contact a hospice nurse.

If an in-home death is unexpected, call 911. Typically, when a first responder arrives, he or she will immediately start resuscitating the deceased. If the loved one has a do not resuscitate order (“DNR”), make sure to present that to the first responders. A DNR is valid outside of a health care facility if it is signed by a competent adult and their physician. However, a DNR does not have to be signed by a doctor if it violates the deceased’s religion to receive medical treatment. Keep in mind that an insurance provider may not invoke a suicide exemption or exclusion to their life insurance policy with a valid DNR. Nor can they charge a higher premium.

Within a few days, make sure to obtain multiple copies of the death certificate. A death certificate is required to manage of a loved one’s affairs.

Step 2: Notify necessary parties

Next, you’ll want to contact close family and friends. You may also want to make arrangements with a religious leader if this is applicable to you and your loved one. Additionally, ask them to contact others to relay the news. Try to inform all family members and friends, first. Then, call the deceased’s employer if they were still working to see if any pay is due or if they had a life insurance policy. Some places of work may require documentation, like the death certificate, in order to access this information.

It is also important to notify any agencies or businesses that would need to know about the death for financial or business purposes. Reach out to any banks or mortgage companies, landlords, and financial advisors or brokers to make sure all finances are in order. Banks and advisors will also likely require a copy of the death certificate.

Additionally, contact any insurance companies or relevant agencies such as the Social Security Administration, Medicare, Medicaid, pension/retirement administrators and relevant agencies, like the VA, that the deceased received benefits from and inquire about benefits due to the estate if applicable. Again, you will likely need a copy of the death certificate prior to gaining this information.

Step 3: Make Arrangements for the Body

Arrangements for the loved one’s body depends upon their wishes. Arrange for their body to be transported. It can be picked up by a mortuary or crematorium if an autopsy is not required. Make sure to follow the deceased’s wishes regarding funeral arrangements, organ donation, and burial or cremation.

Depending on the circumstances, order a casket and headstone. Additionally, find a funeral director. If the deceased was religious, reach out to the deceased’s place of worship or minister to conduct the loved one’s service. If the deceased was a part of the military, make sure to contact the VA to see if they provide any special services . If the loved one wanted was an organ donor, notify a doctor immediately after death.

Step 4: Check on pets, dependents, and the home

If the loved one left behind any pets or dependents that need care, make sure that their care is arranged. If applicable, check the estate plan to see if there were plans for guardianship. Courts may need to get involved if there were not any applicable plans. If the loved one’s house is vacant, ensure that any maintenance is done so there is no damage, like pipes bursting due to cold weather.

Step 5: Settle the Estate and Other Miscellaneous Duties

Reach out to relevant companies to pay bills and end recurring subscriptions. For more information about Michigan digital assets, check here. If the deceased’s home is now empty, reach out to the home insurer to change to a vacant policy. Contact the post office to stop or forward mail. If desired, reach out to social media to memorialize or delete accounts. Also, contact an accountant or tax preparer to make sure required returns are filed.

Settling the estate can be very overwhelming. If you have any concerns or issues, please contact a member of our Estate Planning Group.   The Law Firm of Berry Moorman P.C. can assist you with the estate planning process and help prepare you for the future.